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  • Place of origin:

    Jingdezhen (porcelain, made)
    London (mounts, made)

  • Date:

    1560-1586 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Porcelain, painted with underglaze blue, with gilt-metal mounts

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 1

Object Type
This is a porcelain ewer of not especially high quality. It was made in Jingdezhen, a city in central southern China that mass-produced thousands of similar pieces. Some were for the home market and some for export.

Materials & Making
In late 16th century Europe, porcelain was a valuable and expensive material. Many people were still not certain what it was. Some said it was a precious stone, or a composite material made from crushed shells. The possession of such items made of hard, white, translucent material and decorated in fine detail, denoted wealth and high social standing. For this reason such 'exotica' were often enhanced with metal mounts.

Physical description

A Wan Li porcelain ewer with silver-gilt foot-ring, neck mount and lid; silver spout, lip and neck-band added later. The octagonal vessel has a U-shaped handle and curved spout held by a porcelain stay. The foot-ring has applied bands of die-struck ovolo in high relief. Eight heavy-guage vertical strips are shaped to the porcelain foot; applied to the exterior is a light-gauge strip struck seven times with a bird and swag repeat. Below the neck a white silver band rises from a pierced border crudely engraved with a linear repeat. The (restored) neck has a gilt mount attached to a silver lining. The spout tip is sheathed with white silver, lightly engraved. Seven panels of the octagonal neck mount are engraved respectively with a wolf, a dog, a hare, two more dogs, a boar and a dog in foliage. The hinge-box (now cemented to the handle) was originally secured by three pins, now missing. The shaped side panels of the hinge-box are engraved with birds, the curved centre panel with a fruit pendant terminating in a pierced acanthus chased and shaped to the handle. The cast mermaid and cornucopia thumb-piece is soldered to an extension of the cover. The octagonal cover is embossed and chased with three variant horned masks in elaborate burnished cartouches between fruit pendants on a matted ground. (P. Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, No 98)

Place of Origin

Jingdezhen (porcelain, made)
London (mounts, made)


1560-1586 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Porcelain, painted with underglaze blue, with gilt-metal mounts

Marks and inscriptions

Three trefoils slipped in a shaped shield
Maker's mark (Hallmark); struck on lid, hinge-box and under foot

Leopard's head crowned
mark for London
Town mark (Hallmark); struck on lid, hinge-box and under foot; 1585 - 1586

lion passant
sterling standard
Standard mark (Hallmark); struck on lid, hinge-box and under foot; 1585 - 1586

date letter
Hallmark; struck on lid, hinge-box and under foot; 1585-1586


Height: 25.6 cm, Width: 17.5 cm, Depth: 13 cm, Weight: 1.006 kg

Object history note

Porcelain made at Jingdezhen kilns in Jiangxi Province, China; mounts made in London

Historical context note

The details of the mounts (the stamps and the carefully cast thumb-piece) indicate a slightly higher level of discrimination in the customer than the general run of mounted wares. (P. Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, No. 98)

Descriptive line

Chinese porcelain ewer, mounted in silver-gilt, English 16th century

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Aristocrats and wealthy merchants used decorative and expensive tableware to demonstrate their wealth and social status to guests. Splendid rarities, such as the pieces here, created lavish settings for a dessert of wine and sweetmeats. The weight and high quality of the silver mounts indicated the prestige associated with imported Chinese porcelain and other exotic materials. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Some later 17th century additions; The goldsmith whose mark was three trefoils slipped (perhaps an alien) was active between ca. 1575 and 1615; his mark is known on particularly high-quality mounts attached to exotic materials. (P. Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, cat. no. 98)


Porcelain; Sterling silver


Gilding; Chasing; Embossing; Casting; Engraving (incising); Piercing

Subjects depicted

Cornucopia; Dog; Hare; Mermaid; Bird; Fruit; Acanthus; Mask; Boar


British Galleries; Ceramics


East Asia Collection

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